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Hon. Roger Clarke Approves Of CB's Pilot Project To Grow Sorghum As Substitute For Corn

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A Lesson on SorghumCaribbean Broilers (CB) Group of Companies’ plan to grow sorghum as a corn substitute for animal feeds is a much anticipated project by the Ministry of Agriculture. The Company hopes that this initial300-acre investment will prove profitable enough to justify planting the grain on a larger scale – thereby reducing the importation bill for corn, whilst providing jobs and helping farmers save on the price of feeds. A ‘win-win’ situation.

Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world. It is a genus of numerous species of grasses, some of which are raised for grain production and used as fodder plants. Thus, either cultivated or as part of pasture, it is grown widely in developing countries.Particularly in Africa and Asia it is used for both plant and human foods. It is amongst the most efficient crops in the conversion of solar energy and use of water. Sorghum is known as a high-energy, drought and heat-resistant crop.

During a recent tour of CB’s Hill Run, St. Catherine farm, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke along with members from the Ministry and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), were extremely pleased with the development of CB’s sorghum project. Minister Clarke thanked CB, congratulating them for having ventured on a project that has great potential for the industry and the country by extension. “Anything that can help with reducing imports; if you can save us one tonne, I am with it. My commitment to you is wherever land is available we will work with you to make sure you maximise production,” he said.

Overlooking acres of sorghum, some fields, weeks away from harvest, Hans Muller, Divisional Manager – Feeds, CB Group explained that this project was just a test as the amount of sorghum planted represents a small fraction of the corn currently imported. Nutramix alone he said uses more than 135,000 tonnes annually. “But it’s a beginning. Any grain that comes off this field is a grain less imported. We won’t always have to rely on others for a good crop. It offers a little more independence, food security and food sovereignty with us owning some of our own food,” Muller said.

Meanwhile, Don McGlashan, Director General at the Ministry, described the project as a ‘win-win’ situation. “The private sector as is one to do, and should do, is actually supporting the policy thrust of the ministry, import substitution.The ministry has got to partner with the
private sector to assist in any way possible: cultivate crop, technical expertise, proper land use,
fertilisation, and irrigation, anything to assist to improve efficiency,” he said. McGlashan also advocated that a whole value chain approach should be taken with the production of sorghum which has the potential to cut the import bill, save foreign exchange, provide income generation and improve the livelihood for farmers. The sorghum crop lends itself to little or no praedial larceny while ensuring some degree of self-sufficiency for the island.  

Dr Keith Amiel, Corporate Affairs, Manager, Corporate Affairs at CB Group said it is exciting times, as they prepare to harvest the first crop of sorghum in a few weeks. He is proud the company is able to assist the nation by providing an alternative that in time may drastically cut the hefty import bill, and duallyhelp local farmers. “At CB Group we are passionate about Jamaica, agriculture and job creation. Whether it’s partnering with livestock farmers, or encouraging entrepreneurship through the Pan Chicken Competition or the FHC/CB ‘Bad Dawg Sausages Own-A-Cart Business Loan Programme’, we are big on anything that helps the citizens and our nation.”

He pointed out that annually, the CB Pan Chicken Championship not only awards top chefs across the island but also equips pan chicken vendors with the tools and knowledge necessary for establishing and running successful businesses. Additionally, one year after Bad Dawg Sausages was formally established as a job creation programme in February 2012, the franchise boasts more than 25,000 customers inKingston, St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. Ann, Falmouth and Negril.

He believes the CB Group can repeat its successes with the sorghum project. “Sorghum can work,” Dr Amiel said. “The yields will give us about 145-150 bushels per acre, above the 122-126 bushels of corn the US harvested last year. We have the right climate for 12 months growing season instead of the US’ seven months. Plus there is more than 400,000 acres of agricultural land with 75,000 acres irrigable. Of that number more than half is not being put to use.”

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